Greed to Play

There was a time when John Smedley, then president of Sony Online Entertainment, said that Star Wars the Old Republic would be the last subscription based game to come out – and he wasn’t far wrong. Mind you, free to play hasn’t quite been the bane of existance to PC games like it has to android games. In the case of android games free to play, or more appropriately greed to play, has swept through the market like the plague swept through 14th century Europe.

The old adage says “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” and the concept of free to play games proves the point. The free to play market originally descended upon unsuspecting children and their unaware parents like a pickpocket on a crowded train, snatching money out of the pockets of the unaware. “But what about parental controls” you ask? Sadly the purveyors of free to play games, not the developers or publishers, cared alot less than you might think. Just recently, the Federal Trade Commission ordered Amazon to refund $70 million dollars of “in-app purchases” incurred between 2011 and 2016 . Amazon was actually the last holdout in a lawsuit that dragged on for years; Apple and Goodle had already been ordered to pay $32.5 and $19 million respectively.

It wasn’t that long ago that we talked about a father who had left a review on Amazon of what we have come to call “Greedy Birds Go” by one a father who said his young son had inadvertantly spent the money necessary to pay the electric bill. I recently tried out the latest “it” game of the month, Injustice 2, only to discover that a special superman package was on sale for $44. This morning I tried out a robot boxing game and found that I had subscribed to be a “vip” customer by inadvertantly pressing on the wrong part of the screen (fortunately the wi-fi button was turned off).

The Federal Trade Commission found that Amazon failed to take proper precautions to keep children from inadvertantly spending their parents paycheck – but they are just one of the gatekeepers. The real fault is not only with the developers of the game but the gamers themselves. A whale should only be something that lives in the sea and not some who can be conned out of a paycheck .

This is why I why I continue to cheer for developers like Square Enix who sell the player a game for a fair price. Hopefully, one day the mobile gaming industry will take a turn for the better and the hand on your wallet will be limited to stories about the Artful Dodger.

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